The Eden Alternative is a small, not-for-profit organisation making a big difference in the world. The core belief is that ageing should be a continued stage of development and growth, rather than a period of decline. Building on this new paradigm, the approach affirms that care is not a one-way street but, rather, a collaborative partnership.
The Eden Alternative aims to redesign the experience of ageing around the world. The bulk of our work to date has been in de-institutionalising the culture and environment of today’s nursing homes. We are, however, expanding to all care settings, including home care and residential care for people living with different abilities.
This documentary style video offers an in-depth look at The Eden Alternative. Creating Home - The Eden Alternative
Dr Bill Thomas, co-founder of the Eden Alternative, will never forget the words of an elder, or the beautiful blue eyes that stared up at him, as she reached up to draw him nearer and whispered, “Doctor, I am so lonely.”
The Harvard-educated physician and board-certified geriatrician searched his medical texts and found nothing about healing loneliness. This inspired him to watch and listen to life in the nursing home where he worked. Over time, Dr Thomas realised that the institutional model of care breeds three killers of the human spirit: loneliness, helplessness and boredom.
And so he began to think about a different kind of world. He envisioned a care environment in which people could live and thrive, not just wait to die. Working with his wife, Judith Meyers-Thomas, this vision of a human habitat began to unfold, and it has since changed the lives of elders, and their care partners, across America and beyond.
Since 1991, the Eden Alternative has trained over 30,000 Eden Associates and now claims over 400 registered homes across 18 countries in the US, Canada, Europe, Australia, Scandinavia and South Africa. The staff and management of these homes continue to work towards meaningful culture change through ongoing training and a continued dedication to creating a life worth living for those in their care.
The Eden Alternative recognises that loneliness, helplessness and boredom are the real killers during older age, not physical ailments. The plagues of loneliness, helplessness and boredom were thus the initial focus of the Eden Alternative’s philosophy. But as a living and learning organisation, the Eden Alternative has broadened its focus to include the seven Domains of Well-Being to help everyone experience optimum well-being and a life worth living.
The Eden Alternative shows how companionship, the opportunity to give meaningful care to other living things, and the variety and spontaneity that mark an enlivened environment can succeed where pills and therapies often fail. Places that have adopted the Eden Alternative are typically filled with plants and animals, and are regularly visited by children.
The Eden Alternative is about changing the culture of long-term-care organisations. The departmentalised, task-orientation of the current institutional model has created a culture that is characterised by pessimism, cynicism and stinginess. By moving away from the top-down bureaucratic approach to management − and moving decision-making closer to the elders − Eden Alternative organisations help support a meaningful life for their elders. The Eden Alternative firmly believes that culture change unfolds one relationship at a time, and that deep change can only occur when the entire continuum of care is involved. Organisations that integrate the Eden Alternative principles can become known to others by joining the Eden SA Registry.
Studies show that the Eden Alternative is a powerful tool for improving the quality of life and quality of care for those living in nursing homes. In addition, homes that have adopted Eden as an organisational-wide philosophy benefit from improved staff satisfaction and retention, and significant decreases in the overuse of medications and restraints. Most importantly, the elders, supported by their caregivers, can once again direct their own daily lives.
The Eden Alternative was established in South Africa by Rayne Stroebel, the owner and Managing Director of GERATEC. After completing training in the United Kingdom and in Switzerland, Rayne was appointed as the Eden Alternative International Regional Coordinator for South Africa by the US Eden Alternative Home Office in November 2011.
The Eden Alternative speaks a universal language of growth and nurturing, creating environments in which elders and care partners can flourish. In South Africa, the Eden Alternative is a non-profit company (NPC: 2012/080984/08) that provides training and consultancy services for the long-term care sector. See our training offerings.
Eden Alternative South Africa is a Licensee of The Eden Alternative, Inc. Rochester, NY, USA.
The Eden Alternative in South Africa offers training, consulting services and outreach to help long-term-care facilities transform their culture of care.
Culture change is the common name for a global initiative focussed on transforming care from an institutional model to person-directed values and practices that put the individual first. The transformation process involves changes in personal growth, organisational practices and physical environments, as well as the development of relationships at all levels and in all workforces.
Support and guidance is vital to ensure long-term sustainability.